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October 11, 1996 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-11

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14 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 11, 1996


By Jennifer Harvey
and Laurie Mayk
Daily Staff Reporters
The hours are long, the pay often comes in
experience and letters of recommendation, and
doing the dirty work can mean anything from
chalking pavement to spying on enemy stump
They're out working for candidates and polit-
ical issues, they're performing mundane tasks
and they're having the time of their lives.
This semester, hundreds of University stu-
dents are adding hours of political work for
Campaign '96 to their already hectic sched-
Choosing a cause
By the time LSA senior Karen Sommer was
choosing between the three campaigns courting
her for the '96 race, she knew her candidate
would have to offer more than a paycheck and a
resume boost.
"I'd like to say that I'll never be working for
a candidate, ever, that I don't believe in," said
Sommer, who is taking a semester off from the
University to work as a press assistant on U.S.
Sen. Carl Levin's (D-Mich.) re-election cam-
Sommer hasn't always followed this philoso-
phy. Her first glance into the political arena was
eye-opening and helped her develop guidelines
for choosing campaigns and offices, she said.
A high school internship sent Sommer to the
office of a North Carolina Republican for an
experience that "taught me a hell of a lot about
myself," she said. Sommer said that although
there was plenty of time for interoffice banter
when she disagreed with the representative's
policies, she had no opportunity to affect his
opiion or legislation.
"I think that's when I learned I would never
do that again," Sommer said.
Sommer said her realization came as she was
wading through her usual office duties of sort-
ing mail and doing clerical work.
"When I was reading what his constituents
thanked him for, a lot of his constituents thanked
him for his anti-choice votes. (I realized that)
indirectly, I was helping this man out," said
Sommer, a pro-choice advocate. "I couldn't
compromise my values for an employer."
Sommer said her "first real hands-on experi-
ence with politics" was a sobering experience
that makes this year's campaign choice all the
more significant.
"I'm dedicating my life this semester to a man
who most everything he votes for I'm in favor
(of)," Sommer said.
Some students don't devote themselves to
only one candidate; they work for multiple can-
didates from a single party.
College Republicans
President Nicholas Kirk
is one such student. He It's ne
works with Regent Deane
Baker (R-Ann Arbor), g'Ia roa
who is running for a fifth
term, Republican Regent e ver
candidate Mike Bishop I
and Republican Joe helps
Fitzsimmons, who is run-
ning for U.S. House
against Rep. Lynn Rivers Dole/Kerr
(D-Ann Arbor).
"(The College
Republicans) are also
assisting in the Dole/Kemp campaign," Kirk said.
Some students don't even narrow their inter-
ests down to a single party - instead, they
tackle issues through special interest groups
organized nationally and locally.
SNRE senior Ami Grace is just now begin-
ning to see the effects of her election-year work,
several months after her official duties ended.
Grace worked as a summer intern for the Sierra
Club in Washington, D.C., researching and
compiling information for candidate endorse-
ments the group releases before each election.
The interviews, benefit breakfasts with candi-
dates and time around Capitol Hill gave her a new
perspective on the connection between politics
and issues such as the environment, Grace said.

Amy Phung and Jessica Wank, members of the College Republicans, chalk GOP campaign messages outside of Angell Hall just after midnight Monday, Sept. 29. Chalking is one of several ways in
which University students have participated in local and national political campaigns this fall.


"You kind of see the involvement in politics as
actually an issue there," Grace said.
"Environmentalists are getting more and more
into the political realm because they're finding it's
the best way to get their political voices heard."
At the University, Grace is also active in
Environmental Action, which has played a
part in Voice Your Vote voter registration dri-
ves, environmental information dissemination
and was instrumental in bringing the Sierra
Club's national president to campus last night.
Leave of Absence
Some students just can't squeeze in enough
campaign strategies and candidate policy plat-
forms between classes. Especially in a presiden-
tial election year, the temptation is great to
forego exams and classes for a semester and
experience "real politics."
"My parents weren't
ecstatic about it," said
LSA senior Andy Schor,
who is taking a semester
off from University
classes to work for the
Fe bit state of Michigan's
chapter of the
Coordinated Campaign.
Susan Schafer Schor said since extra
1 spokesperson credits would have
allowed him to graduate
a semester early if he had
enrolled for fall term, he
"really had nothing to lose."
Sommer said she faced a similar decision this
"(The question was) do I find a campaign to
work on or do I graduate in December and wait
tables or something for a semester?"
The experience of working on a large-scale
political campaign outweighs the drawbacks for
Schor and Sommer, but Schor said the decision
to leave the Diag and Ann Arbor coffee shops
behind for a semester definitely required con-
sideration on all sides.
"The cons were the time, and I wouldn't be able
to see my friends - I was dating someone who I
wasn't going to see very much," Schor said.
"It's full time - and full time means 24 hours

a day, seven days a week," he said.
Just because she doesn't have midterms this
semester doesn't mean Sommer has taken a
vacation from gathering knowledge and infor-
"I'm taking a semester off from the University
of Michigan. I'm not at all taking the semester
off from learning," Sommer said.
Political theory can't prepare you for every-
thing workers encounter on the campaign trail,
Schor said..
"What you learn in class and what you see on
a campaign are 180-degree efforts," Schor said.
"They don't tell you in class that when you go
out to get out the vote you have to have food -
the practicalities."
Where it al happens
Republicans and Democrats alike said student
volunteers are critical to campaigns.
"It really helps us a lot," said Lakitia Mayo,
Rivers' volunteer coordinator. "They help us
with everything."
Mayo said that about 250 volunteers are
working in the Church Street office. She said
some commit 40 hours each week and others can
only fit in a few hours here and there, but all are
Even as election day gets closer, Mayo said
new volunteers continue to pour in.
But Ann Arbor isn't the center of student
Plenty of students are volunteering in Lansing
as well, said Susan Schafer, a spokesperson for
the Michigan Dole/Kemp campaign.
Schafer said hundreds of students have come
into the office to help out with events, phone
calls, faxing and everything else, including orga-
nizing campaign tail-gate parties.
"It's not very glamorous, but every little bit
helps," Schafer said. "We do rely on them a lot."
Schafer said everyone is impressed by the loy-
alty and enthusiasm of the student volunteers.
"They're really a gung-ho bunch of people,"
Schafer said. "The response to the campaign has
been great."
The location of the campaign office, about a
mile from Michigan State University's campus,
is a big bonus, Schafer said. "Students come in
and the next time they bring a lot of friends."

By Jennifer Harvey
Daliy Staff Reporter

hen students come
to campus ready to
toss their hats into
the proverbial polit-
ical arena, they usu-
ally meet Jae Jae
Spoon or Nicholas Kirk.
But not both.
Kirk and Spoon are the presidents of the
College Republicans and College
Democrats, respectively. Students meet
one or the other at a mass meeting, and
come to know the other as the opposition.
But in the end, both are students with
hectic schedules to maintain.
"You have two months of intense insan-
ity and you still have to keep up your
GPA," Kirk said.
Kirk, an LSA junior, said he spends 20-
25 hours working on campaigns each week.
Communication takes up most of his
time, Kirk said. He said he answers at least
50 questions and comments over e-mail
and telephone every day. He meets with
campaign committees and organizes other
College Republicans into focus groups.
Kirk and other College Republicans
chalk sidewalks in the middle of the night
at least once each week, weather permit-
With students and candidates both ask-
ing for time, political leadership can be
stressful, Kirk said.
"I have to coordinate everybody, keep
everybody focused and motivated," Kirk
said. "It's very draining.
"When I put forth a lot of energy, it's
hard to get the batteries back up," Kirk said.
"The hardest part (of volunteering) is wak-
ing up every day and finding the energy to
do that."
He said he draws strength and motiva-
tion from his family and the sacrifices they
made in the past and from God.
His involvement in the College
Republicans isn't about his own personal
interests, Kirk said. He's not doing it to
become famous or get a lot of attention.
"I don't have any aspirations to use this
club as a vehicle to get ahead," he said.
"I like it. I like the political fight."
For him, Kirk said, two points make up
the key issues in this year's campaign -
the economy and character - things for
which he is fighting.
Known for firing up the crowd by talk-
ing trash and ripping up- Clinton/Gore
posters at College Republicans meetings,

In addition to chairing her student group.
Spoon works as a fund-raiser for state Rep.
Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor), contributes time
to the Democratic Coordinated Campaign,
goes to class and attempts to work on her
Honors thesis on the effect of the 1968
Paris riots. She also co-chairs Voice Your
Vote, a non-partisan voter registration and
voter turn-out project.
Spoon said her campaign duties range
from fliering to phone-banking and from
gathering volunteers to hosting debate-
watching parties. She sets up debate and
candidate forums and organizes pizza par-
"It's all in time management," she said.
Spoon said she devotes about 20 hours
to the campaigns each week, but said there
are hundreds of students who work at least
two hours for candidates each week.
"For most people (volunteering) is just
really good way to get involved and see
how things work," Spoon said.
Spoon said a lot of students volunteer for
multiple Democratic campaigns. "There's
a lot of cross-over," she said.
There are definite advantages to work-
ing for lower-profile candidates, Spoon
"The average volunteer that's doing
something for (Sen.) Carl Levin (D-Mich
may never see him," Spoon said. "But Li
Brater's and (Democratic Ann Arbor may-
oral candidate) Chris Kolb's schedules
allow them to do it."
Spoon said students end up doing more
abstract work for candidates like Levin and
President Clinton, but can do more con-
crete work for local candidates like Brater,
Kolb and U.S. Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Ann
"Volunteering is better than making a
donation," Spoon said. "It's a learnin
experience. You're really having art
But at times the work can be less than
exciting, Spoon said,
"Sometimes work.is tedious, sitting there
for three hours stuffing envelopes and
answering phones," she said.
Students often walk in expecting to do
really exciting things like opposition
research, Spoon said. But in the end
many are willing to do the repetitiv4
information-distributing tasks, she said.,
because they know the campaigns really
need it.
Getting involved with the Democratic
Party is very easy for University students,
Spoon said, because the campaign office is

Kirk, Spoon temper
classes with campus
campaign coordination

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